Mayo pile on agony as 13-man Monaghan lose plot
Mayo 3-15 Monaghan 0-11 - Allianz NFL Division 1
Mayo had a secret weapon in their locker for yesterday's crunch clash with Monaghan at Castlebar.
His name was Murphy, he wasn't even playing, but his fabled Law which states 'everything that can go wrong will go wrong' certainly applied to the Farney men's fruitless journey to the West.
Ace marksman Conor McManus was named to start, but was ruled out with a hip injury.
They lost two men to red cards - Stephen Gollogly in the 28th minute and Ryan Wylie on 56 minutes; they had Dermot Malone dismissed for a black-card offence in the 44th minute; lost half-back Kieran Duffy to an ankle injury in the second half, and they conceded two late goals as the 13 men inevitably succumbed to the superior forces ranged against them.
By contrast, Mayo, despite losing Seamus O'Shea to a 29th-minute black card, got the breaks, partly because they have embedded a serious amount of hard-earned experience, and also because they lost their cool less obviously than their opponents.
None of the 6,067 enthusiasts who braved the chilly, albeit sunny afternoon to witness this encounter will remember it as a classic.
There was too much niggly, scrappy, confrontational stuff going on, especially in the second half, some of which was caught by referee Rory Hickey and his officials, and some which was missed.
As a contest, the game suffered when Gollogly got his marching orders for an off-the-ball incident in the first half, and it really deteriorated when Ryan Wylie's apparent shove on Mark Ronaldson reduced Monaghan to 13 men.
Conditions were tough for the players. The strong wind blowing downfield in Mayo's favour in the first half did not relent when it was Monaghan's turn to take advantage in the second period.
Unfortunately, for all that both sides expected a physically robust encounter and did their utmost to provide it, there's a line between a hard edge and a self-destructive recklessness.
Mayo, despite Seamus O'Shea's black card, kept it broadly within bounds and won the 'card game' - one black, three yellow to the home side; two red, one black, and three yellow to Monaghan.
From Monaghan's point of view, that aspect needs to sharpen up because against that strong wind, they made the most of the relatively few chances they got to kick six points in the first half.
Mayo created four good goal chances early in the match, and missed them, with one close-range shot being blocked by Monaghan 'keeper Rory Beggan, and the others were just wasted.
But with Cillian O'Connor notching up four points from frees, big Aidan O'Shea (left) causing plenty of trouble for the Monaghan defence as he played mostly at full-forward, and consistent pressure on the visitors' kick-outs, the home side were good value for their 0-9 to 0-6 interval lead.
An early second-half point by Cillian O'Connor from a free was answered by a lovely catch, turn, and shot powered over the bar by the hard-working Monaghan full-forward Daniel McKenna.
Paul Finlay's 40th-minute point from a free reduced the arrears to two points as the 14 men sought to gain a foothold and trouble Mayo with the assistance of the wind.
That it failed had much to do with Mayo's resilience, as between minutes 48 and 50 Monaghan were hit with a couple of sucker punches.
Points by Aidan O'Shea, Diarmuid O'Connor and Mark Ronaldson stretched the lead to five points, and then a sweeping movement ended with Patrick Durcan setting up Aidan O'Shea to power the ball into the Monaghan net.
At 1-13 to 0-8, down to 14 men, 20 minutes left for play, Monaghan were in trouble.
On 56 minutes, Ryan Wylie's heavy push on Ronaldson earned him an early shower, and from then to the end, the game was scrappy, edgy, and confrontational. There was only going to be one winner, and to rub it in, Mayo added two superbly-struck goals by Alan Freeman (62 minutes) and Mikey Sweeney (injury time).
Mayo joint manager Pat Holmes was just glad to get the two points and get back on track ahead of their next match away to Derry.
"We felt that the performance we put in against Tyrone wasn't to the standards we would hope or expect as a group.
"In fairness to the boys, they came out today and played very, very well, but we're not unrealistic.
"We know we played against 13 men for a long part of that game which had a big impact on the scoreboard as well, so we're not naive enough to think it's all solved," he said.
Monaghan boss Malachy O'Rourke hoped and expected for better from his team.
"We were a bit disappointed with our own discipline. Regardless of when things are going against you, you just have to stay mentally strong. If you lose the head and lose control you won't peg our way back into the game but that's it.
"There's a lot of learning we'll have to take out of the game, today but that's what we hope to do," said O'Rourke.
Man of the match: Aidan O'Shea (Mayo).
Scorers: Mayo: A O'Shea 1-3; C O'Connor 0-5 (5f); A Freeman 1-0; M Sweeney 1-0; M Ronaldson 0-3; D Vaughan, J Doherty, K McLoughlin, D O'Connor 0-1 each. Monaghan: D McKenna 0-4 (2f); P Finlay 0-2 (2f); K Hughes 0-2; R Beggan (f), S Gollogly, P Meegan (f) 0-1 each.
Mayo: R Hennelly 7; T Cunniffe 7, K Keane 7, K Higgins 7; L Keegan 7, S Coen 7, P Durcan 7; D Vaughan 6, S O'Shea 6; K McLoughlin 6, A O'Shea 8, D O'Connor 7; M Ronaldson 7, C O'Connor 7, J Doherty 6. Subs: D Kirby 7 for S O'Shea (BC, 29); C Boyle 6 for D Vaughan (h-t); A Freeman 6 for C O'Connor (57); M Forde for K McLoughlin (61); M Sweeney for M Ronaldson (64); G Cafferkey for K Keane (65).
Monaghan: R Beggan 6; C Boyle 6, D Wylie 6, R Wylie 5; D Mone 6, F Kelly 6, K Duffy 7; N McAdam 6, P Finlay 6; K Hughes 7, S Gollogly 5, R McAnespie 6; D Malone 5, D McKenna 7, O Duffy 6. Subs: V Corey 6 for K Duffy (34); D Hughes 6 for O Duffy (h-t); P Donaghy 6 for D Malone (BC, 44); K O'Connell 6 for F Kelly (50); P Meegan for D McKenna (64); P McGuigan for C Boyle (67).
Referee: R Hickey (Clare).